Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Book Review Double Whammy: Edgelanders and Sorrow's Peak by Jennifer Melzer

Edgelanders  
Summary
Lorelei's fiance planned to kill her, so she ran. Fleeing for her life, Lorelei, sheltered princess, had no hope. She's lost and alone, far from the home she never got to leave before.

Then the U'lfer found her, a race of wolf-men exiled to a tiny strip of land by Lorelei's father. Mad Finn the Reckless rescued her, only to face exile for his mad actions. Now, banished to the frozen wastes of Rimian, Finn and Lorelei have to stay alive. What's worse, the U'lfer's seers prophecied that Lorelei would be the savior of the dying U'lfer race, and Lorelei is, in fact, half U'lfer herself.

Torn between a past she never knew she had and a future she doesn't want, Lorelei has the weight of an entire race on her shoulders, and a god she doesn't worship pushing her along. Not to mention the devotion of Finn, whose heart she can feel beating with her own.

This was not what she expected the world to be like.

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from http://jennifermelzer.com/books/serpent-of-time/edgelanders/

When Princess Lorelei of Leithe overhears her fianc√©’s plot to murder her on the way to their wedding, she does the only smart thing: she runs.
Into the Edgelands, the savage, woodland home of the legendary U’lfer, a race of fierce wolves who walk as men, she knows she is as good as dead, but she would rather be torn apart by werewolves than die by Trystay’s hand.
A young U’lfer warrior named Finn catches her scent on the wind and finds himself possessed by an unnatural desire to shield and protect her from that which hunts her. From the moment he first sees her, Finn knows she is his. He feels her heartbeat, knows her soul as well as he knows his own, and he will do anything, even suffer exile from the Edgelands to be with her.
But there is more to Lorelei than meets the eye. She is like Finn; there is U’lfer blood in her veins, a beast beneath her skin she never knew was there. The answers she seeks lie south, in the frozen tundra of Rimian, where a village of people just like her have been waiting for Lorelei to come and save them since before she was even born.

Context
Edgelanders is a little hard to nail down, because it isn't the sort of "standard" fantasy that people tend to think of. It's not the sort of English knights/Medieval period, and it's not the orcs/goblins/Tolkein-ish world.

That. Is. Wonderful. Edgelanders sits on its own, breaking the mold for setting. Personally, I see a lot of Gaelic and Norse influence here... more Norse than Gaelic, I think, though, and it's a great mix. the naming conventions differ from what I'm accustomed to seeing in fantasy fiction, and it lends itself to a rich world that's unlike anything I've seen before. Oh, there are elves and trolls, but they're done differently from the Tolkein elves and trolls that they're entirely different races in their own. In fact, the elves have a different sort of name for themselves, Alviarii, though they are still informally called elves.

It's a refreshingly different setting Melzer has created for her world, and there is a lot of greatness to explore. It does make there a little bit of a learning curve for those who, like me, get sort of "stuck" in the more common Western European fantasy-type worlds, but it's a welcome enough change that I didn't mind the unfamiliarity.



Style

Melzer's writing style and my personal reading style have a little bit of a gap between them. It felt to me like she should read quickly, but I felt like the book dragged along for me, and I couldn't read for long periods of time before my eyes started glossing over. It's not a matter of subject of it being boring or overcomplex. Honestly, I don't know why there was that sort of disjoint that made this book hard to finish for me. It took me much longer to finish Edgelanders than it should have, though, and that's a little unsettling.

My Thoughts
I liked Edgelanders quite a bit, but it's one of those books that, for me, had a lot of little nagging problems that detracted from my enjoyment of it. Little things, like there being too many names of characters and places that were similar. Drekne, Deken, and Dunvarak; Rimian, Rivenn, Rognar, Ruwena, Rhiorna, and Roggi; Lorelei, Logren, and Leithe. In some ways, it just felt like Melzer got stuck on a few letters, and they all got used at the expense of other letters. It made keeping track of people and places a little difficult, but not much.

There was a lot of repetition of ideas. Almost any time we had Finn's point-of-view, he was always mooning and harping over how afraid he was that Lorelei would shun him or never accept him as a mate... only days after they met. I understand that it was a driving force for him, but I got a little sick of these sorts of things always popping up in his thoughts. I think if some of that repetition had been toned down across all the characters, it would have made the book flow faster (for me, at least) and smoothed things out, but that's a personal aesthetic.

Throughout much of the book, I felt like there was something lacking, and it was during the epilogue (which was, in my opinion, the most intriguing part of the book) that I realized what it was: there was no real clear personification of an antagonist. It wasn't until the epilogue that I saw Trystay again, and holy cow, did his presence make a huge difference in the urgency of the plot! Frankly, it brings up my hopes that book two of this series will be better, which isn't to say this book was bad. To me, it felt like a prologue... one really long prologue to the real story.

Would I Recommend This Book? I'm actually going to hold off on recommending it or not until I read the next book. If it leads in the way I think it will, then yeah, I'd say read it, but I don't feel comfortable making that call right now. This book is well-written, though I did have some personal preference problems with it. I hope the next book brings the intrigue of the story up to fill the world like it should. I will, though, give Edgelanders a foreseen 3 of 5 stars.

Sorrow's Peak
Summary
Fate is calling to Lorelei. Finally safe from her murderous fiance, she's learned that reawakening the wolf-spirits of the U'lfer is up to her. There is a task she must undertake, waking and destroying the Serpent of Time to end the vicious repetitive cycle of time the world has been in. As has happened uncounted times, Lorelei sets out with Finn and Brendolowyn. Her heart is still torn between the two men, and they're at one another's throats. Is this bickering over her the cause of their constant failure and time's repetition? Will they be able to break the cycle once and for all?

Fate says only two of them will return. Who will be coming back with Lorelei?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from http://jennifermelzer.com/books/serpent-of-time/sorrows-peak/

Once a princess of Leithe, Lorelei was exiled from her homeland and led to the city of Dunvarak in the tundra of Rimian. The people of Dunvarak call her Light of Madra, and nearly every one of them has a story about the white hand of light who saved them from death during the War of Silence.
She is their savior, and being a savior is no small task.
Charged with retrieving the fractured horns of the U’lfer god, Llorveth, from a long-dead dragon’s treasure hoard in the belly of Great Sorrow’s Peak, the half-bred U’lfer believe with the horns in hand they will finally be able to embrace the dormant wolf, and rise to stand beside their full-blooded brethren in the coming war with men.
But there is more to Lorelei’s plight than simply retrieving the mystical horns of a silent god. She and her companions, Finn, an U’lfer warrior she shares a mate bond with, and a half-Alvarii mage named Brendolowyn, have made this journey before, and unless they can figure out where they went wrong in past cycles, time threatens to repeat itself for eternity.

My Thoughts
Sorrow's Peak picks up right where Edgelanders left off, so it's a pleasant, pretty  much nonexistent segue into the continuing story. I was treated immediately to more of the character I really want to know more about, Trystay, but it was brief. And I didn't get to see him again until the epilogue, but he is an antagonist, so I suppose it's not surprising. He's not even really the main conflict in this novel, but it is good to see what he's up to.

My intrigue with Trystay doesn't mean I'm not interested in our protagonist team. Lorelei is evolving, though I'd like to see her grow more quickly. She seems so resistant to change, but not intentionally. In some ways, the world is pushing her along, and she's helpless to stop it. It does sometimes make her come across as whiny, and I want to slap her sometimes, but it's hard to hate her. She's not my favorite protagonist ever, but her chemistry with her teammates makes up for a lot of frustration I have at her. I think if the book were more exclusively in her POV, I wouldn't be able to stand it.

Bren and Finn make the story in a lot of ways. Their bickering, their turmoil, seems more real than Lorelei's does, at least to me. Finn's continued pining after Lorelei, along with Bren's, get annoying. A lot. But it does have a little more purpose now, as they're really set against each other with the whole "only two will return" thing. This really comes to a crux with Bren, and I enjoyed the tension there.

Then there's the side plot, which is headed by my favorite character, Vilnjar. I want more of him. I love that his story arc has diverged from the main story, and I'm eager to see what becomes of him in book three. Yes, I'm curious to see what becomes of everyone, but his story arc appeals to me more than the main one does. That's just personal preference and has nothing to do with the writing quality or plot quality. That is purely opinion.

Would I Recommend This Book? Sure! While I'm not a die-hard fan of many of these characters, and the plot doesn't particularly resonate with me, this is a well-written and well-developed world and novel, and I believe there is something in here for most readers. It is a little on the solemn side, and maybe that's where my taste gets upset. I will be back for the next book, though. I give Sorrow's Peak an underground 4 of 5 stars.
For more information on the author, visit http://jennifermelzer.com/

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